Jennifer Rubell is serving 2,000 lbs of ribs tonight
Daughter of art collectors Mera and Don Rubell and niece of Studio 54 impresario Steve Rubell, Jennifer Rubell is the closest you can get to art and entertainment world royalty. But she’s made a name for herself in her own right as a cookbook author and crackerjack hostess, capable of masterminding culinary spectacles (such as a project she did on the subject of reconciliation at the National Portrait Gallery earlier this year, involving a 270-foot long table and 1,500 baguettes). Tonight, she’s producing the opening dinner for the Performa 09 Biennial, transforming the X Initiative art space in Chelsea into an “interactive culinary experience” based on the book of Genesis. Five hundred guests will move through three floors, eating a course on each. Honey will drip from the ceiling onto 2,000 pounds of barbecued ribs (think: God creating woman) and guests will be asked to destroy and consume chocolate facsimiles of Jeff Koons’s bunny sculpture (made by Jacques Torres).
How does one even prepare 2,000 pounds of ribs?
Adam Perry Lang of Daisy Mae’s BBQ — I met him through Mario Batali — has a cooker that holds 1000 pounds of ribs. I called Adam up and I said, I’m doing this project and I need one ton of ribs, 2,000 pounds, and the first question he asked was, “Is that the weight before or after they’re cooked?” He didn’t even hesitate.
Who are some of the expected guests?
It’s a great mix of people and generations. Maurizio Cattelan, Cindy Sherman, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Opening Ceremony, Zac Posen, Celerie Kemble, Lou Reed.
Will your parents be there tonight?
Definitely. And my brother Jason and his wife Michelle and my daughter are coming too.
What was it like growing up in a family of collectors?
It’s impossible to exaggerate the degree to which art was the absolute central focus of our lives. We grew up around artists, curators and critics and we never had heroes who were anything but great artists.
Do you remember any in particular from your childhood?
I’ve known Jeff Koons since I was nine, I was in love with Richard Prince, I remember all the artists. When I think of my childhood- Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Francesco Clemente, they were all there. I remember strikingly my mother coming downstairs and telling me that Andy Warhol had died. It was like a family member had died. I was probably a teenager.
Tell us where you like to eat in New York.
One restaurant that I’m loving is Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick. It’s been open for two years but it’s just kind of burst onto the radar. They’re actually coming on Saturday with chain saws to cut the apple trees we’re using in the Performa installation into wood to use in their woodburning oven. I’ve also been a consistent Indochine fan, it’s their 25th anniversary, and there hasn’t been a year in those 25 years that I haven’t been a regular. I used to go with my uncle.
Your uncle was Steve Rubell — are there similarities between you two, in terms of entertaining or otherwise?
He and I were very, very close, and we shared an interest in social interactions. But I feel like my whole life is atonement for the velvet rope. I try to be inclusive in everything. He used to say to me, “I’d never let myself into Studio 54,” and I always thought that was heartbreaking, to create a place that he wouldn’t feel adequate for. When I was 7 years old the crowds would part for me at Studio 54 — I felt a little embarrassed. I just always had more sympathy for the people still standing outside.